By a vote of 93-2, the Senate has confirmed Lloyd Austin to be the next Secretary of Defense and the first Black man to serve as the chief of the Pentagon.
“Austin’s confirmation follows Wednesday’s Senate confirmation of Avril Haines, who became the first woman to the lead nation’s 18 intelligence agencies as the director of national intelligence,” CNBC reports.
Because Austin, who left the Army in 2016, had not been retired from active duty for seven years, the House and Senate had to pass legislation allowing the four-star Army general a waiver to lead the Pentagon. “The Senate approved Austin’s waiver by a vote of 69-27 and the House approved the waiver by a vote of 326 to 78,” CNBC notes. The waiver was a technicality but who are we kidding, Austin is a black man and technicalities are usually enough to stop the whole process in its tracks. But not on this day.
Under the National Security Act of 1947, Congress has prohibited any individual from serving as secretary of Defense within seven years of active-duty service. Austin left the Army in 2016 and therefore required a special congressional waiver in order to bypass the seven-year rule.
Former President Donald Trump’s first Defense secretary, James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, also needed the same waiver from Congress.
Before becoming the 28th secretary of Defense, Austin served as a board member at defense giant Raytheon. Trump’s former Pentagon chiefs Mattis, Mark Esper and acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan also had ties to defense titans General Dynamics, Raytheon and Boeing.
Austin will be the first Black leader of the Pentagon, a huge moment in history that wasn’t lost on the 1975 graduate of West Point, who posted this to social media shortly after his confirmation.